A life of ease

22:24, Jul 27 2009
kate stand
While most people would be exhausted keeping pace with Kate Macfarlane's current schedule, for her life it is a quiet patch.

At the moment, Kate Macfarlane, 36, is going through a quiet patch. She has two children, is running a business and renovating a house. Things are quite cruisy.

Gone are the days when she was cooking at a restaurant while rocking her new baby daughter in her car seat on the floor. And she no longer gets up at 1.30am to drop two little children off at her parents' house so she could start cooking at 3am.

Kate has been going hard out since she left school.

Her first day job was at the Westpac Bank in Christchurch, where she grew up. At night and in the weekends, she worked at Brigettes Cafe in Merivale with then boyfriend Craig, whom she met while they were at Middleton Grange School.

"I was in the kitchen. I fell into doing it, really. I've always enjoyed cooking, baking, meals, the whole lot. I ended up doing all the main grill cooking, as well."

Around this time, Kate's parents moved to Taranaki and saw a building in Inglewood they thought would make a great cafe.

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Craig and Kate got married and moved to Taranaki in 1994. They opened Macfarlane's in Inglewood in March 1995.

The couple didn't have any other ties, so just worked all the time.

"We worked 100-plus hours a week. It was just massive, but we didn't have anything else to take us away from that. It was really hard work, but we were doing it together."

Kate did the cooking while Craig looked after the front of house.

"I enjoyed it. It was really challenging - a huge learning experience. Looking back now, it feels like a whole other lifetime ago."

They didn't have a day off for "a long time", but eventually started taking Mondays off. They'd go to Zanziba for lunch.

Living and working with her husband wasn't a problem, she says.

"Craig and I get on really well and we've always had a good working relationship."

It helps having a partner who understands the industry because it requires such long working hours.

"It's quite an unsocial job, really, because you're working in people's social time and you're not part of it socially. When we had a family and I stepped right out of it, Craig was still working all those hours and it's important to understand why that's necessary."

The couple opened a second Macfarlane's Cafe in Feilding 12 years ago when daughter Georgia was just a baby.

Because they had problems finding a chef, Kate used to drive backwards and forwards every week.

"I would cook in the kitchen and rock her [Georgia] with my foot in her car seat. And Mum would come down week after week and look after her in the motel room and bring her in so I could feed her. We did that for quite a while until we got things sorted down there. It was really hard."

A chef was eventually found, but the business was sold two years later. Running a business long distance was difficult, Kate says.

Next they opened Macfarlane's Espresso Bar (which has since closed) in Morley Street.

All the food was made in the Inglewood kitchen. Kate and a co- worker would begin cooking in Inglewood at 3am and and take it into Morley Street.

Kate had two children by this stage, who got fairly used to getting up at 1.30 in the morning.

"Good old Mum and Dad - they would take the children and try to get them back to sleep. I did that for quite a while."

Then the opportunity came up to have an espresso bar in Centre City. "That's when we realised we needed a proper kitchen space because Inglewood just couldn't accommodate doing any more food out of it. That's when we put the wholesale kitchen into King Street in the warehouse where Macfarlane's Group head office is."

The couple are now 50/50 partners in Macfarlane's in Inglewood with Kent and Tania Riddell. They are also involved in a number of cafes, bars and restaurants in New Plymouth.

Kate doesn't have anything to do with the business now, she says.

"I still enjoy my baking. I love doing that side of it. At Christmas time, I still do all the cakes and Christmas mince pies, but I never want to go back into the kitchen grill side of it. It's hard work."

Instead, Kate has opened her own business: clothing, shoe and furniture store Et Vous, which also has a cafe attached.

As well as cooking, Kate's other interest is clothes. She owns 15 pairs of shoes.

When the Taranaki Daily News visits, her black Italian shoes, by Ixos, are teamed with head-to-toe Trelise Cooper - black suit with white detailing on the jacket. The grey scarf is made from tulle Kate picked up from the Trelise Cooper fabric shop. A black top is hidden underneath; the only parts visible are on the hands. The extra long sleeves have holes for the thumbs, giving the impression Kate is wearing fingerless gloves.

Her hairstyle could be described as funky, but it's hard to define her clothing style, she says. She's not a "pretty dresser".

"I would have said I was more of a masculine dresser in a way. I sort of like to mix it up a bit. I'm not the sort of perfect put-it- together person. I liked it a bit messed up."

Owning Et Vous, which recently won the Taranaki Top Shop Competition, gives her an opportunity to mix it up a bit more.

"Trelise Cooper does a lot of beautiful, beautiful clothes, uses a lot of beautiful fabrics, and I enjoy that I have some beautiful dresses to wear."

The business came about when Kate and her mother, Marguerite Boddington, got the idea to sell European shoes.

"We didn't know anything about shoes, but we went online and found this shoe fair in Germany . . . it's acres and acres of footwear."

The fair was broken up into areas and they concentrated on a section called Top Style and Exclusive. This section had "really beautiful shoes" and smaller companies, so they were able to buy a particular style and only eight pairs of it.

In another part of the fair, called High Production, the minimum order was 100 pairs.

"So we stuck to this Top Style and Exclusive and we'd sit down and deal with the father and son of the companies. It was a pre- order show - we didn't know, either - so while we were there, we were placing orders for shoes for a nonexistent shop."

About eight months later, they opened Et Vous. By then they had decided to import shoes and combine it with clothing and some furniture, Kate says.

"I think what we really wanted was to open something that wasn't just somewhere you'd come if you thought you needed a new winter coat and it was another option to look at. It was about providing an experience, somewhere you could enjoy the space, spend some time, look around, have a coffee if you wanted to.

"It's quite nice to have something that gives ladies the opportunity to have a bit of time out if they wanted to after dropping the kids off . . . It's nice to have an uplifting experience."

A lot of women are interested in fashion, like men are into cars or boats, Kate says.

"It was hard the first year because I felt I needed to be here all the time and I think you do. I think it's important you are here all the time to get to know your clients. Now I try to maintain it between nine and three as much as I can."

Kate's two daughters, Georgia and Isabella, are 12 and 8.

"I've never had to put my children in day care, ever. I feel very fortunate about that because Mum and Dad have always made themselves available to help out when we're so busy doing what we were doing."

One of the things Kate and Craig were doing was renovating several houses. They have a house to renovate at the moment, but Kate says she might get someone in to help this time.

"I'm over painting. I said no, not anymore."

She has been through some very busy times, she says.

"We're those sort of people who think they can do it all. You do what you need to at the time. If that's what is required, that's just what we did. We've got amazing support from Mum and Dad - they've been fantastic in terms of the children."

Kate can't remember her parents sleeping in, she says.

"That's what I've grown up in. It doesn't seem unnatural to do it. I do think I am an organised person. I have to be, otherwise things would fall down. To be here all day, things have to be organised at home, so when I pick up the kids at three, we move into the whole other side of things with all the things they are involved in.

"Craig is away a lot just doing what he does with the other side of the business, so I don't rely on him to be part of that. If he's here and he can help out, that's great, but it's a bit of a bonus."

Taranaki Daily News